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British Football’s Floodlit Firsts

On this day, the 26th October, in 1955, two simultaneous floodlit firsts took place, the first time in British football history that two such games had been played on the same day. So perhaps it’s fitting given my fascination with floodlit football that we recap a few floodlit firsts of British football.

London v Frankfurt first floodlit game at WembleyFootball League v Scottish League 1955 Hillsborough

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Who are the Sleeping Giants of English Football?


Comments by Joe Cole about Liverpool being the biggest club in England have prompted an article on the Newcastle United Supporters Trust website asking the question What is a big club?

Some geezer from Coventry University called Simon Chadwick was interviewed by Radio 5 and offered some criteria that could be used to determine exactly which clubs are big. One notion he mentioned was that of a sleeping giant and offered the examples of Cardiff City, Leeds United and Southampton. Is he right can any of these three clubs be considered sleeping giants and are there others?

So who are the sleeping giants of English football? First up we have to define what a sleeping giant is. For starters the term suggests the club is currently out of sorts and is not reaching heights it once did. They’re no longer playing at the pinnacle of English football, in the top flight, instead floundering in the Championship or lower.

Next up the club must have an illustrious history and this has got to mean it has something in the trophy cabinet. We’re not talking about a few divisional trophies or minor cups here. For a club to be considered a sleeping giant I would say it’s got to have some major domestic honours and the only two really worth winning are the league title and the FA Cup. Indeed a sleeping giant must have won both these honours at some point in their history.

So for the first part of our analysis we will only look at clubs that are currently outside the Premiership and who have won both the English top flight title and the FA Cup. Here they are ranked by the number of trophies won ..

So on the basis of past glories are these ten clubs the sleeping giants of English football. They’ve all won the league title and the FA Cup. Well we can add an extra level of definition to find just who are the true sleeping giants of the game in England. We’ve already determined that a club must have some major honours under it’s belt but what about crowds and attendances. Ask anyone what constitutes a big club and they’ll always mention those that get the highest crowds.

So it’s fair to have a think about pulling power when considering which clubs are sleeping giants. Only twenty-eight English clubs have ever attracted crowds over fifty thousand. Of the ten clubs above only six have ever attracted crowds in excess of fifty thousand ..

  • Sheffield Wednesday
  • Leeds United
  • Sheffield United
  • Huddersfield Town
  • Portsmouth
  • Burnley

What about consistency when it comes to attracting large numbers through the turnstiles? Which of the six clubs above are amongst the top twenty supported clubs when ranked on historical average attendance? We are left with ..

  • Sheffield Wednesday
  • Leeds United
  • Sheffield United

So then these three Yorkshire clubs by the definitions we have used are the sleeping giants of the English game. All are outside the Premiership, all feature amongst the twenty most succesful clubs in English football and all three are historically amongst the top twenty supported clubs in the land.

Now why don’t we have a look to see just how long it is since each of these three clubs has won anything. So when ranked by years since winning either the league title or the FA cup we are left with ..

  • Sheffield United - FA Cup in 1925
  • Sheffield Wednesday - FA Cup in 1935
  • Leeds United - League title in 1992

There we have it then the Blades are positively catatonic going eighty-five years since winning anything of note. The Owls are comatose with seventy-five years since bagging one of the big two trophies though they did win the League Cup in 1991. Whilst Leeds have been snoozing for quite some time now. Just how much longer will they all remain in slumber?

Who do you think are the sleeping giants of English football? Leave a comment below.

Women’s football in Portsmouth, England 1917

via flickr

Women’s football in Portsmouth, England 1917

Portsmouth v Newcastle United 1956

First Floodlit Football League Fixture in England

Portsmouth v Newcastle United - 1st Division 1956 (by footysphere)

In 1955 Sunderland made a proposal that led to the formal introduction of floodlit fixtures to the league calendar. They suggested that if the two clubs agreed then postponed fixtures could be played under floodlights.

It was their North East rivals Newcastle who made history along with Portsmouth when the two met at Fratton Park for the first League game under floodlights. Newcastle won 2-0 though the game nearly didn’t go ahead. A power failure had electricians working frantically to get the lights on in time for the 7pm kick off.

Read more | Dark Night Under Lights | tag: floodlights on footysphere

Rampla Juniors Tour of England 1956

Luton Town v Rampla Juniors (Uruguay) 10/04/56

Uruguayan club Rampla Juniors embarked on a huge global tour in 1956. Over the course of 71 days they played 24 games in 8 countries. They visited Brazil, Spain, France, Germany, Denmark, Israel, Turkey as well as England. They recorded 11 wins, 6 draws and only 7 defeats, a quite remarkable record given that they averaged a game every 3 days.

The English leg of their tour saw them take part in a number of floodlit friendlies. The programme cover above shows their game at Kenilworth Road on Tuesday 10th April. The day after, on the Wednesday, they played Portsmouth at Fratton Park & became the first Uruguayan club to record a victory on British soil with a 3-1 win.

The following week they visited Queens Park Rangers on Wednesday the 18th & then Watford on the Thursday. I’ve not been able to find the scores from these two games. They also played Leeds, Mansfield, Southampton & possibly Burnley but I haven’t been able to confirm the dates these games were played.

QPR v Rampla Juniors (Uruguay) 18/04/56 Watford v Rampla Juniors (Uruguay) 19/04/56

Read more about Rampla …

1929: The 1st Tour: Rampla Juniors abroad